The pants in question were found recently by archaeologists digging in the ancient Yanghai Tombs in China's Tarim Basin. Fragments of the trousers were recovered from the tombs of two men, dating between the 13th and 10th century BCE. Both men, apparent horseback riders, died around the age of 40.
The archaeologists say the discovery is the oldest evidence of trouser-wearing, and evidence the pants were developed to enable horseback riding.
"Together with horse gear and weapons as grave goods in both tombs our results specify former assumptions that the invention of bifurcated lower body garments is related to the new epoch of horseback riding, mounted warfare and greater mobility," wrote lrike Beck and Mayke Wagner of the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin, whose paper on the subject was published this week in the journal Quaternary International.
Because horseback riding was thought to have come to prominence as early as 4,000 years ago, it's likely men began wearing pants well before this pair of ancient riders.
In addition to the wool trousers, the two men left behind a whip, a bow, a battle-axe and wooden riding equipment.
The unearthed tombs are just two of 500 which have been excavated from the archaeologically rich graveyard at Yanghai.